KIGALI - President Paul Kagame yesterday told Local Government leaders that he is only interested in results on the ground and not meetings, adding that ‘meetings and retreats’ are not an end in themselves but rather a means to an end.
While officiating at the closing of a three-day Local Government retreat, President Kagame, wielding a 6-page document containing resolutions of the last five retreats, said that it is becoming common for leaders to go into meetings and come up with recommendations which are never implemented.
The retreat was aimed at assessing persistent challenges in local governance, identify solutions and find ways of speeding up implementation of strategic priorities.
President Kagame noted improvements in some areas of governance, saying that it was an indication of efforts being made, but cautioned that there was more to be done in order to improve the lives of ordinary citizens.
In a strong message to leaders, Kagame said told them, to ‘walk the talk.’ He said that he personally has no problems with meetings, but his major concern are the results that come out of the recommendations adopted at the end of the day.
“Can anyone show me anything new out of these recommendations? Coordination, implementation, supervision----I have heard this for the last many years. I think this is not the era to debate about planning, we have exhausted that part.”
“Meetings should not be an end in themselves but rather, a means to an end. This retreat just like all other meetings, should lead us to tangible results.”
“What we are looking at today, are results---achieving the set goals, how we can get Rwandans out of poverty and nothing else,” Kagame told the leaders.
“If the level of progress is determined by the number of meetings, then surely we have achieved our objectives.
“However, if these meetings can lead us to our set objectives, I wouldn’t have a problem if you had them every day as long as they will take us where we want to be,” Kagame said.
In reference to a Kinyarwanda word “Intego” which means ‘achieving goals’, Kagame noted that there is still a major problem when it comes to delivering results despite planning at various levels, calling for an all embracing solution to the problem.
Kagame said that as leaders and Rwandans, they should be able to ‘think as revolutionaries’-beyond corruption and selfishness.
He reminded them that some of the principles that guided the liberation struggle were to get Rwandans in general out of poverty and not individuals. He said that he would never have a ‘sleepless night’ over people who deviate from these principles at the end of the day, when they are arrested or forced to resign.
Kagame said that he has no sympathy for those responsible for stealing public funds because they are responsible for confining Rwandans to poverty, insisting that accountability must define their day-to-day work.
“Turn over---turn over---that’s all they can say. Why shouldn’t you resign or go to prison if you are holding down the development of Rwandans?”
“Someone single-handedly holds down development and then you expect to get away with it? Why should we be patient?”
Demanding high levels of accountability, Kagame told the leaders that they have the alternative of ‘opting out’ early when appointed to positions of leadership if they know they cannot meet the demands of Rwandans, instead of wasting time and resources.
“Holding leaders accountable is a new thing. Wrongdoing by leaders has existed for a long time only that it was almost taboo to ask leaders to account for their misdeeds.”
“I would like to tell you that we will be even more vigilant in demanding accountability from leaders because we will not compromise development for the convenience of a few individuals.”
On district Mayors and provincial Governors who complained about the Central Government ‘interfering’ in the district plans and budget, President Kagame said that decentralisation is not an end itself.
He reminded them that Districts and Provinces are some of the units which fall directly under the Central Government but said that the main reason is because districts sometimes have totally failed to deliver on some of the things that the government wants.
The President urged all administrative units at all levels to work in coordination as they are the major engine of growth and development.
“All organs of the district should work in tandem to move the district ahead instead of standing in the way of each other.”
He cited the example of building classrooms for the 9-Year Basic Education whose plan was in the pipeline for seven years, but not until the government intervened a few months ago that the construction of 3,000 classroom blocks started.
Kagame further cited that there are some problems that could have been solved many years ago but still stick around because the leadership has failed to deal with them once and for all.
Among these is the issue of evicting people out of Gishwati Forest and resettling them in other places where leadership of Nyabihu District has failed to implement the decision.
He also pinned Rubavu District and Western Province authorities for failing to maintain high standards of cleanliness in Rubavu town despite his directive three years ago.